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Shaping Our Towns and Cities (IF Discussion Guide)

The 40-page discussion guide, Shaping Our Towns and Cities, was published by the Interactivity Foundation in 2014 and edited by Jeff Prudhomme.  The guide offers seven contrasting public policies to consider when shaping our towns and cities. These policies are broad approaches on how to design our communities; and while not exhaustive, these are mean to provide a starting point for creating public policy that supports thriving communities.

You can view the discussion guide in full on IF’s site and it can also be downloaded as a PDF for free here.

From the introduction…

As we look to the future of our towns and cities, what choices might we face about their design and development? From this one core question many more follow.

What basic vision of community design might guide our decisions? What makes good community design? What makes a good place to live? What values might guide our community design decisions? What if our values are in conflict?

The appearance of a community (its aesthetic qualities) is often a key value for many people. What would it take to design beautiful towns or cities? What about designing a community for a thriving economy? Some people value a sense of social connection in a community. Can we design towns and cities for a thriving community life? Can we have communities where young and old live together, where people are urged to stay rather than move to a new community in their later years? Can we design communities in a way that encourages interactions among all kinds of people who live there?

Cities and towns grow beyond their boundary lines as newcomers and immigrants arrive. Populations change with new languages and cultures. Cities also shrink as industries die off or as young people seek opportunity elsewhere. How can community design take account of such changes? What are the environmental considerations regarding community size or community design? How might we harmonize the constructed environment of our communities with the natural environment surrounding them?

Many community design and development decisions depend on transportation policy. Could our transportation decisions be the key to designing our communities? What model of transportation might we embrace as we design our towns and cities? The sprawling design, or lack of apparent design, of many communities depends on widespread car ownership.

What if people need or want other transportation options? What happens if fuel and energy costs spike to the point where car-centered designs are no longer tenable for most people?

Of course many of our community design decisions depend on funding. Our models for funding housing, infrastructure, public spaces, and so on determine much about the design and development of our towns and cities. Finance models determine who gets to live where, in what kind of housing, in what kind of neighborhood, and with what kind of transportation options. They determine the kind of infrastructure we have and the public and private spaces that make up a town or city. What different funding models might there be? (more…)

Ideals of Inclusion in Deliberation

The 23-page article, Ideals of Inclusion in Deliberation, was written by Christopher Karpowitz and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, Karpowitz and Raphael, build off of previous research they performed regarding inclusivity within democratic deliberation.

They propose four ideals of inclusion summarized in the abstract, “These principles of inclusion depend not only on the goals of a deliberation, but also on its level of empowerment in the political system, and its openness to all who want to participate. Holistic and open deliberations can most legitimately incorporate and decide for the people as a whole if they are open to all who want to participate and affirmatively recruit perspectives that would be underrepresented otherwise. Chicago Community Policing beat meetings offer an example. Holistic and restricted forums (such as the latter stages of some participatory budgeting processes) should recruit stratified random samples of the demos, but must also ensure that problems of tokenism are overcome by including a critical mass of the least powerful perspectives, so that their views can be aired and heard more fully and effectively. Forums that aim to improve relations between social sectors and peoples should provide open access for all who are affected by the issues (relational and open), if possible, or recruit a stratified random sample of all affected, when necessary (relational and restricted). In either case, proportional representation of the least advantaged perspectives is necessary. However, when deliberation focuses on relations between a disempowered group and the rest of society, or between unequal peoples, it is often most legitimate to over-sample the least powerful and even to create opportunities for the disempowered to deliberate among themselves so that their perspectives can be adequately represented in small and large group discussions. We illustrate this discussion with examples of atypical Deliberative Polls on Australia’s reconciliation with its indigenous community and the Roma ethnic minority in Europe.”

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

Tensions between equality and equity occur at every stage of public deliberation in civic forums, but perhaps nowhere more than with respect to the question of inclusion. Given that deliberative theory is premised on the idea of free and equal citizens exchanging reasons and making decisions together, an abiding concern from both critics and champions of deliberative approaches has centered around whether background inequalities harm disadvantaged groups at various points in the deliberative process (Young, 2000). Such harm may occur prior to any reasons being exchanged at all when inequalities shape who is able to show up to deliberate in the first place. As Gutmann and Thompson put it, “When power is distributed unequally and when money substantially affects who has access to the deliberative forum, the results of deliberation in practice are likely to reflect these inequalities, and therefore lead, in many cases, to unjust outcomes” (2004, p. 48). (more…)

Safety and Justice: How Should Communities Reduce Violence? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 28-page issue guide, Safety and Justice: How Should Communities Reduce Violence?, written by Tony Wharton was published on National Issues Forums Institute site on January 2017. This issue guide provides three options for deliberation around how communities should address the violence within their communities. In addition to the issue guide, there is a moderator’s guide and a post-forum questionnaire, all available to download for free on NIFI’s site here.

From NIFI…

After falling steadily for decades, the rate of violent crime in the United States rose again in 2015 and 2016. Interactions between citizens and police too often end in violence. People are increasingly worried about safety in their communities.

Many Americans are concerned that something is going on with violence in communities, law enforcement, and race that is undermining the national ideals of safety and justice for all.

It is unclear what is driving the recent rise in violence, but bias and distrust on all sides appear to be making the problem worse. Citizens and police need goodwill and cooperation in order to ensure safety and justice. For many people of color, the sense that they are being treated unfairly by law enforcement—and even being targeted by police—is palpable. Others say police departments are being blamed for the actions of a few individuals and that the dangers, stress, and violence law enforcement officers face in their work is underestimated. Still others hold that if we cannot find ways to defuse potentially violent interactions between citizens and police, we will never be able to create safe communities in which all people can thrive and feel welcomed and comfortable. (more…)

Can Public Life Be Regenerated?

The 32-page report, Can Public Life Be Regenerated? (2016), was written by David Mathews and supported by the Cousins Research Group of the Kettering Foundation. This report is based on a presentations Mathews gave the the Independent Sector conference on issues of community, civil society, and governance. In this report, Mathews explores the possibilities to “reweave the social fabric” within society, to improve its social capital and revitalize its sense of community, and create a healthier civil society.

Below is an excerpt of the report and it can be found in full at the bottom of this page or on Kettering Foundation’s site here.

From the guide…

This paper was written in 1996 for an Independent Sector conference. At that time, the term public life was used to distinguish political life from other kinds of collective living. This was intended to counter a tendency to conflate largely social phenomena (attending a picnic) with more political activities (building a playground to give children a safer place to play). If I were writing this paper today, I likely would title it Can Democracy Be Regenerated? The Kettering Foundation’s research has led to a distinctive understanding of democratic politics that puts citizens at the center. By citizens, we mean people who join with others to produce things that serve our common well-being. As our research evolved, we came to use “making democracy work as it should” as a central, organizing theme. We define democracy, at its most fundamental, as a system of governance in which power comes from citizens who generate their power by working together to combat common problems—beginning in their communities—and by working to shape their common future, both through what they do with one another and through their institutions. – David Mathews April 4, 2016

These days we seem willing to consider the possibility that democracies need something more than written constitutions, multiple parties, free elections, and representative governments. They also depend on a strong public life, a rich depository of social capital, a sense of community, and a healthy civil society. Now comes the obvious follow-up: Is it possible to “reweave the social fabric,” to generate social capital where it is lacking, to build a sense of community in a fragmented, polarized city, to invigorate public life at a time when many Americans are seeking security in private sanctuaries? No one knows. Maybe a democratic civil society takes centuries to develop, building layer upon layer like a coral reef. Maybe the places we admire most result more from happenstance than we would like to admit. These reservations notwithstanding, we do have cases where a civil order changed its character in a relatively short period of time. Modern Spanish democracy emerged from Franco’s fascism in only a few decades, according to Víctor Pérez Díaz. And Vaughn Grisham Jr. reports that Tupelo, Mississippi, changed its civic character in roughly the same amount of time, the result being that the poorest city in the poorest county in the poorest state of the union became a progressive community with a per capita income close to that of Atlanta. (more…)

When is Deliberation Democratic?

The 14-page article, When is Deliberation Democratic?, was written by David Moscrop and Mark Warren, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, the authors theorize on how deliberative democracy operates in relation to equality and equity. They lift up two features that are of particular importance to pre-deliberative democracy: popular participation and agenda-setting, that must be paid attention to by theorist and practitioners. Deliberative democratic processes shape and are shaped by these two features, popular participation- how people show up and express their voice, and agenda-setting- how concerns are shaped into issues. The authors offer suggestions on responding to the challenges of equality and equity to democratic deliberation.

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

“Deliberative democracy” is a compound term. In both theory and practice, it connects deliberative influence through reason-giving, reciprocity, and publicity to a family of political systems that broadly enable popular control of the state and government through empowerments such as voting, petitioning, and contesting, as well as the electoral and judicial systems that enable them. These empowerments are democratic when they are distributed to, and usable by, those affected by collective decisions in ways that are both equal and equitable.

While deliberative influence is best protected and incentivized by democratic political systems, not all deliberation is democratic, and not all approaches to democracy are deliberative. We should distinguish and relate these terms: we need to differentiate the practice of deliberation from the contexts of democratic enablements and empowerments in which it occurs. We can then focus on the pre-deliberative conditions that will enable or limit the extent to which deliberation is democratic. Two pre-deliberative democratic features stand out as particularly important in this context: popular participation—how individuals come to have standing and voice as participants, and agenda setting—how concerns come to be defined as issues. We further argue that since deliberation typically occurs downstream from agenda-setting, and since popular participation both shapes and is shaped by this practice, theorists and practitioners of deliberative democracy should pay close attention to each feature well before deliberation begins.

To make this case, we first theorize the democratic dimensions of deliberative democracy through the concepts of equity and equality. Second, we focus on agenda-setting and popular participation as important, though not exclusive, pre-deliberative determinants of equality and equity during deliberation. Finally, we offer suggestions about how theorists and practitioners of deliberative democracy might think about responding to the challenges generated by the tension between equality and equity prior to democratic deliberation. (more…)

Equity through Learning to Listen: The Case of Public Discussion on Body-Worn Cameras in Madison, Wisconsin

The 17-page article, Equity through Learning to Listen: The Case of Public Discussion on Body-Worn Cameras in Madison, Wisconsin, was written by Katherine Cramer and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, Cramer discusses the process around gathering public input on whether the Madison police department should implement body-worn cameras on their officers. She gives details around the context for the process and the four lessons learned throughout the whole experience.

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

We expect deliberation to achieve many things—better-informed opinions, tolerance, efficacy, well-rounded decisions, and decisions that have legitimacy (e.g., Barabas, 2004; Fishkin, 1995; Gastil, 2000; Jacobs, Cook, & Delli Carpini, 2009; Karpowitz & Mendelberg, 2014; Mill 1859 [1956]). Deliberation supposedly enlarges our ability to incorporate moral values into governance (Gutmann & Thompson, 1996); enables an enlightened interpretation of the general will (Mansbridge, 1999); and increases the legitimacy of the decisions reached (e.g., Young, 2001). The expected democratic benefits of deliberation are numerous. But each of those outcomes relies on a particular quality: that a range of people and perspectives be included in the discussion. This means that ideal deliberation should involve equality of access as well as equality of who talks and who gets heard (Mansbridge, 1999; Mendelberg & Oleske, 2000).

But ensuring these things is difficult. As with all political participation, people with resources, particularly income and education, are more likely to show up. Also, people within social networks of politically active people are more likely to be recruited to participate (Jacobs, Cook & Delli Carpini, 2009; Ryfe & Stalsburg 2012; Verba, Schlozman & Brady 1996). Even when people representing a wide range of perspectives are in the room, deliberative processes privilege the views of privileged people (Sanders, 1997; Young, 2001).

Nevertheless, the belief endures that democratic governance is best achieved when people inform the decisions that affect them, and so the field of deliberative democracy continues to strive for ways to incorporate marginalized voices into the process to enable democracy to live up to its promise. (more…)

Promoting Inclusion, Equity and Deliberation in a National Dialogue on Mental Health

The 15-page article, Promoting Inclusion, Equity and Deliberation in a National Dialogue on Mental Health, was written by Tom Campbell, Raquel Goodrich, Carolyn Lukensmeyer, and Daniel Schugurensky, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, the authors share their experiences with the project, “Creating Community Solutions” (CCS), in which six organizations partnered to better understand how the public is engaged around mental health. By implementing three engagement strategies, CCS sought to shift the social norms around mental health and work to improve the inclusivity of how individuals and communities are engaged.

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

The ability to make progress on the nation’s mental health crisis has been limited not only by inadequate resources but also by the difficulty of addressing underlying discrimination, stigma, and cultural barriers. Indeed, some populations are especially vulnerable and underserved by mental health services. To begin, young people have high rates of mental health problems and low rates of seeking help; three-quarters of mental health problems begin before the age of 24. Second, common mental health disorders are twice as common among individuals with low incomes, and there is a strong correlation between mental illness, poverty, and crime. Third, communities of color tend to experience a greater burden of mental and substance-use disorders, most often due to limited access to care, inappropriate care, and higher social, environmental, and economic risk factors. Fourth, LGBTQ youth are sometimes rejected by their families and peers, and experiencing bullying and bias can lead to anxiety, depression, drug use, and suicide. The stigma associated with mental illness often leads to reluctance to find help. It has been reported that up to 60 percent of individuals with mental illness do not seek treatment and services (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015). (more…)

Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time

The 342-page book, Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time, by Mary Gelinas, was published September 2016. In the book, Gelinas explains and guides you and your community in eight practices that are essential to creating effective dialogue and deliberation. Use it as a guidebook or training manual to enhance your own skills as you work with groups to address the issues they care about.

From the book… 

We create the present and future in our meetings and conversations every day. What can we do to increase the likelihood that we’re creating a future that we all want? We can start by talking more constructively and productively about what matters to us all.

After decades of advising groups in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, process design and facilitation expert Mary V. Gelinas has integrated her best knowledge of brain and behavioral sciences, mindful awareness, and effective process to create Talk Matters! Her eight essential practices offer us ways to avoid getting hijacked by our survival instincts, engage with people who differ from us, and open ourselves, our businesses, and our communities to real, lasting change. As she explains, good process can help us work better together to do good things for the world.

In this highly readable and accessible book, Gelinas uses real-world examples to illustrate the practices that can help you start achieving life-serving results in your interactions as a leader, participant, or facilitator today.

What NCDD colleagues and friends say about the book: (more…)

Budgeting for Equity: How Can Participatory Budgeting Advance Equity in the United States?

The 18-page article, Budgeting for Equity: How Can Participatory Budgeting Advance Equity in the United States? , was written by Madeleine Pape and Josh Lerner and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. The article talks about the history of participatory budgeting, starting in Porto Alegre and how it has growth in the US. Two major claims of PB is that is it an opportunity to “revitalize democracy and advance equity”. Pape and Lerner share some of the challenges and strategies to equity within PB.

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

In 1989, the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre undertook a radical experiment to alter the chemistry of democracy. After decades of dictatorship and thin representative democracy had cemented Brazil’s economy as one of the most unequal in the world, the newly elected Workers Party government attempted a new variant of democracy, one that mixed participation and equity. Its experiment in “participatory budgeting” aimed to redirect resources to those with the greatest needs – and it succeeded.

Over 3,000 cities have since tried to replicate Porto Alegre’s success by empowering residents to directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Many processes have inspired high participation, but struggled to engage or redistribute resources to marginalized communities. Participatory budgeting (PB) has recently grown dramatically in the United States, from a pilot process in Chicago’s 49th ward in 2009 to over 50 processes in a dozen cities in 2015. The once obscure concept has been heralded by the White House as a best practice of civic engagement and by scholars as the lynchpin of a “new wave of democratic innovation” (Stoker et al., 2011, p. 38; White House, 2013). (more…)

Leaders or Leaderfulness? Lessons from High-achieving Communities

The 21-page report, Leaders or Leaderfulness? Lessons from High-Achieving Communities (2016), was written by David Mathews and supported by the Cousins Research Group of the Kettering Foundation.

The report discusses how communities become stronger and more resilient through more “leaderfulness” of its community members, as opposed to having just a few of active leaders. What Mathews means by “leaderfulness”, is that people are engaged within a community and show leaderfulness by taking initiative to participate. Through years of research, Kettering has found that the serious problems that face a community require active participation from the people within it. There is a largely untapped civic energy in this country, this report shares information on how community members can be more leaderful and what that can look like.

Below is an excerpt of the report and it can be found in full at the bottom of this page or on Kettering Foundation’s site here.

From the guide…kf_leaders_cover

There is a widely held belief that change only occurs when a few courageous leaders step forward to take charge and overcome entrenched power. History is full of examples of great leaders who have been agents of change: Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, George Washington. You can complete the list. Could “just citizens” working with just citizens ever change anything?

Kettering began to think about this question as a result of a study of two communities that, although similar, were quite different in what they achieved.3 However, the more dysfunctional of the two actually had the best leaders, as leadership is traditionally understood. They were well educated, well connected, professionally successful, and civically responsible. Yet what stood out in the higher-achieving community was not so much the characteristics of the leaders as their number, their location and, most of all, the way they interacted with other citizens. The higher-achieving community had 10 times more people providing initiative than communities of comparable size. The community was “leaderful.” And its leaders functioned not as gatekeepers but as door openers, bent on widening participation.

Beginning Where We Live
Because we are facing an array of daunting domestic problems and a morass of international uncertainties, many Americans think we need to make basic changes in the way the country operates. We believe that the chances for change are best beginning at the local level, in communities where we can get our hands on problems. Change has to start there before it can take place nationwide. At the same time, we are deeply worried about what is happening to our sense of community, to our ability to live and work together. As Benjamin Barber put it, we worry that “beneath the corruptions associated with alcohol and drugs, complacency and indifference, discrimination and bigotry, and violence and fractiousness—is a sickness of community: its corruption, its rupturing, its fragmentation, its breakdown; finally, its vanishing and its absence.” (more…)